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Montana Audubon works at the local, state and national policy levels to protect our natural heritage.


Montana Audubon Awards

Nominations are now being accepted for Montana Audubon’s 2019 conservation awards. Consider nominating someone for Conservationist of the Year, Environmental Educator of the Year, Citizen Scientist of the Year, or a Lifetime Achievement award.


The deadline for nominations is May 20, 2018. Please submit via email to [email protected] or by mail to Montana Audubon, PO Box 595, Helena, MT 59624.

Award winners will be announced at our Bird Festival banquet in Glasgow on June 8.

2018 Award Winners:

Lewis Young ~ Lifetime Achievement Award

Lewis Young (right) and Kristi DuBois (left). Lewis was honored with Montana Audubon’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

This year, Montana Audubon recognized an individual who has given a great deal of time, energy and hard work to Audubon and conservation in Northwestern Montana for our Lifetime Achievement Award: Lewis Young. We recognized Lewis for:

His professional contributions to conservation by:

  • Working for over 30 years on National Forests as a strong advocate for wildlife;
  • Working as a wildlife biologist to develop an effective wildlife mitigation program for Libby Dam on the Kootenai National Forest; and
  • Striving to maintain sharp-tailed grouse in the Tobacco Valley near Eureka. This work continues today and has resulted in the development of several viable restoration plans.

His years of active service to Flathead Audubon, including as:

  • A long-time Board member and a co-chair of Flathead Audubon’s conservation committee (among other committees);
  • One of Flathead Audubon’s most dedicated and versatile field trip leaders;
  • An organizer and leader of the Eureka Christmas Bird Count;
  • Current editor of the chapter’s monthly newsletter; and
  • An active volunteer bird monitor. He currently monitors a peregrine falcon eyrie, bands bluebirds, and occasionally assists with eagle and owl surveys.

And for his long-term active service to other wildlife by his:

  • Dedication to bat monitoring and conservation; and
  • Active participation in many conservation organizations in addition to Flathead Audubon Society, including The Nature Conservancy, Montana Chapter of The Wildlife Society, and many other non-profit organizations and community groups.

We applaud Lewis for his commitment to Audubon and bird (and bat) conservation—as well as his work and contributions to the state of Montana.

Denny Olson- Educator of the Year

Denny Olson (right) and Larry Berrin (left). Denny was honored with Montana Audubon’s Educator of the Year Award.

This year Montana Audubon presented Denny Olson with our Educator of the Year Award. Denny has been teaching about nature and conservation for 46 years. He has authored 5 natural history books, and trained thousands of naturalists, teachers, and students in storytelling techniques.

This award celebrates Denny’s many education accomplishments, including:

  • His work as a life-long environmental education professional. He has performed his humorous alter-egos over 3,500 times, in 49 states, for over 2 million people – including to about 30 birding festivals.
  • His work with Flathead Audubon. When Denny took on the role of chapter Conservation Educator in 2016, the program took off. Today it reaches 5,000 people (over 5% of the population) in Flathead County each year.
  • His ability to reach new audiences.
  • The diversity of programs he offers.
  • And on and on…

Denny has forged an unlikely union between science, humor, and drama—and established a reputation as an innovative performer and conservation educator. Flathead Audubon—and the Kalispell area—are lucky to have such a dedicated educator in their midst.

Dan Bennett ~ Conservationist of the Year Award

This year, Montana Audubon and Upper Missouri Breaks Audubon recognized Dan Bennett for his commitment to conservation with our 2018 Conservationist of the Year Award.

As examples of Dan’s dedication, he has:

  • Been an active member of Upper Missouri Breaks Audubon for many decades;
  • During his involvement with the chapter, he has utilized his skills as a paralegal to tirelessly research environmental issues. He has been the Upper Missouri Breaks Audubon Conservation Committee Chairman for many years;
  • Contributed a monthly article to the newsletter about pertinent conservation issues of interest to members, inspiring and informing them to get involved with these issues;
  • Shared his experience and knowledge of natural history and conservation with members by leading hundreds of field trips for both Audubon and his other volunteer organization, the Montana Wilderness Association. His hikes excite people to appreciate special places so that they are inspired to protect them; and
  • Quietly and with great determination over at least 20 years, Dan has made it his mission to protect the Badger-Two Medicine area from natural resource development. This area is sacred to the Blackfoot people and important to many Montanans.

It’s probably impossible to estimate the number of hours that Dan has provided to Upper Missouri Breaks Audubon.

We appreciate Dan’s work, and thank him for his tireless efforts and commitment to Audubon, birds, natural resource conservation, and the state of Montana!

Steve Gniadek ~ Citizen Scientist of the Year Award

Steve Gniadek (left) and Amy Seaman (right). Steve was honored with Montana Audubon’s Citizen Scientist of the Year Award.

Birds are the heart of Montana Audubon. This year we would like to recognize a professional scientist who is now turning into a volunteer “citizen scientist” in his retirement. He has contributed significantly to our understanding of birds—and many other wildlife species—particularly in the Glacier National Park Area, where he worked between 1987 and 2009. It is my pleasure to honor Steve Gniadek with our 2018 Citizen Scientist of the Year Award.

As examples of some of the work that Steve has done:

  • He annually conducts Breeding Bird Surveys (also known as BBS routes) for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. He is coming up on his 100th BBS survey this year. We know of only two other people in Montana that have exceeded 100 BBS surveys in the state—which can only be done because a person surveys multiple routes per year. Steve has done up to 5 routes.
  • He is a significant contributor to the Montana Natural Heritage Program’s database on birds. Starting in 1976, Steve has contributed 16,059 records for 330 species and counting. This includes 2,027 observations for 70 Montana Species of Concern. His records span more than 40 years, starting in 1976.
  • Highlights of Steve’s work at Glacier included surveys for common loons, harlequin ducks, bald and golden eagles, cliff-nesting raptors, nocturnal owls, northern hawk owls, black swifts, and songbirds. And research on lynx, wolverine, pikas, bighorn sheep, harlequin ducks, and Brewer’s (timberline) sparrows.

Whether working as a professional biologist, or advocating as a citizen, Steve has always been a strong voice for all wildlife and their habitats. He has a long-term history of standing up for what is right when it comes to wildlife, including birds.

Congratulations—and THANK YOU—to all!

Montana Natural Heritage Program – Conservationist of the Year

In order to do our conservation work, it is essential for us to understand where wildlife species live in our state and how their distribution and population changes over time.

Because of their critical role in wildlife and ecosystem information, we recognized the Montana Natural Heritage Program (Heritage Program) with our 2017 Conservationist of the Year Award. Montana Audubon is particularly grateful for the program’s housing of the Montana Bird Distribution database, mapping Important Bird Area boundaries, and developing the state’s first wetland and riparian habitat maps.

So how is Heritage Program data used? The information is primarily used in environmental reviews conducted by local, state, federal, and tribal governments, and private consulting firms, to better understand the impacts of mining, timber sales, subdivisions, utility and pipeline corridors, oil and gas developments, highway construction projects, and more.

Good information is critical to protecting and maintaining our state’s valuable natural heritage—especially as the state continues to grow and develop. We are pleased to recognize the Montana Natural Heritage Program for this work in this area.

Beth Hill – Lifetime Achievement Award

Beth Hill, left, and Montana Audubon Board member Nora Gray, right.

This year, Montana Audubon recognized a hard-working, dedicated volunteer with our Lifetime Achievement Award: Beth Hill

Beth has donated thousands of hours of work to the Upper Missouri Breaks Audubon Chapter:

  • Serving as President, Treasurer, Membership Chair, Newsletter Editor, and Education Chair;
  • Encouraging participation in such events as the annual Great Backyard Bird Count;
  • Taking on special projects like the March 2017 community presentation on Tim Barksdale’s film, Battle on the Booming Grounds, about the Greater Prairie Chicken and tallgrass prairie;
  • Sharing her love of the outdoors and the study of birds by routinely posting her bird sightings on the Montana Online Birding Group’s (MOB) webpage;
  • Always being available to lead field trips, including the “West Bank Wednesday Walk” most weeks and annual trips to look for birds like Common Loons and wild turkey; and
  • Recording over 500 bird records in the Montana Natural Heritage Program database between 2010 and 2016.

Beth: we appreciate and thank you for your tireless work and commitment to Audubon!

Gail Engler – Outstanding Achievement Award

Gail Engler, left, and Montana Audubon’s Interim Director Norane Freistadt, right.

This year Montana Audubon presented a Special Achievement Award to Gail Engler, for her tireless work and dedication to the establishment of a permanent endowment fund in honor of her parents: the George and Laurene Engler Montana Audubon Conservation Endowment.

George Engler was deeply involved with conservation issues. As Supervisor of the Lewis and Clark National Forest he successfully resisted unrestrained forest clear-cutting and helped foster the protection of the Rocky Mountain Front. George also co-founded the Great Falls Conservation Council, which brings together conservationists for a monthly program to learn and network with each other, and the Upper Missouri Breaks Audubon chapter.

Laurene Engler also supported many conservation causes. Her efforts were often behind the scenes, but she was no less enthusiastic about the importance of conserving the land and keeping it accessible so future generations could enjoy it.

To learn more about George and Laurene, click HERE.

Finally, please support the Engler Endowment (click HERE). And because of the very generous Upper Missouri Breaks Audubon Chapter, each dollar given to this fund in 2017, up to $5,000, will be matched.

We are pleased to recognize Gail for her work for birds, conservation, Montana Audubon, and the state of Montana—in perpetuity!

Chuck and Jean Carlson – Outstanding Achievement Award

From left to right: Chuck and Jean Carlson; Montana Audubon’s Janet Ellis

Many Montanans care about birds. However, extremely few devote the greater portion of their lives to these winged wonders. Because of their life-long devotion to birds, Montana Audubon is pleased to recognize Chuck and Jean Carlson with a 2017 Special Achievement Award.

Specifically we thank them for:

  • Welcoming numerous birders, scientists, and enthusiasts of the natural world to sit around their kitchen table—to find out about local life birds while being served a meal and coffee;
  • Guiding or directing visitors to places where they can observe many of the unique birds that call the ‘greater Fort Peck area’ home;
  • Developing a bird-friendly backyard at the house they have lived in for over 50 years;
  • Running the Fort Peck Christmas Bird Count for over 40 years;
  • Submitting over 6,500 records to the Montana Bird Distribution database at the Montana Natural Heritage Program; and
  • Submitting nearly 27,500 records to eBird as of May 24, 2017, making this information accessible to other birders.

We are privileged and proud to know Jean and Chuck—and pleased to recognize them for their outstanding work for birds, Audubon, and the state of Montana.

Congratulations—and THANK YOU—to all!

Past Awards

2016 Awards

These awards were presented at our annual Bird Festival in Missoula in 2015. We recognize these individuals and groups for their excellent work:

  • Conservationist of the Year ~ Becky Kean (Montana Raptor Conservation Center)
  • Environmental Educator of the Year ~ Larry Weeks (Missoula)
  • Citizen Scientist of the Year ~ Gary Swant (Deer Lodge)
  • Lifetime Achievement Award ~ Bev Orth Geoghegan (Five Valleys Audubon)
  • Outstanding Achievement ~ Jeff Marks, Dan Casey & Paul Hendricks (co-authors of the 2016 reference book, Birds of Montana)
  • Science Outreach Award ~ Whisper Camel-Means and Stephanie Gillin (Tribal Wildlife Management Program, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes)

2015 Awards

These awards were presented at our annual Bird Festival in Helena in 2015. We recognize these individuals and groups for their excellent work:

  • Lifetime Achievement Award ~ Jo Lace and Brian Shovers (Helena)
  • Conservationist of the Year ~ Amy Cilimburg
  • Educator of the Year ~ Vince Yannone
  • Citizen Scientist of the Year ~ Harriet Marble
  • Special Achievement Award ~ Jane Beasley
  • Special Achievement Award ~ Jay Sumner

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